GOVERNMENT is intensifying measures to increase the mining sector’s contribution to the economy amid revelations it contributed more than M1 billion to the fiscus in the 2015/16 financial year.
This was recently revealed by Mining Minister Lebohang Thotanyana while presenting an annual update on the status of the mining sector in the country in the National Assembly.
The latest figures indicate an increase from M852 million in the 2014/15 financial year and the minister said this translated into a 10 percent contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
To date, the mining sector has attracted a total foreign investment injection of US$500 million (about M7.1 Billion) and created 3000 skilled and unskilled jobs for locals.
Mr Thotanyana also took the opportunity to outline the ministry’s plans for further development, saying five new diamond mines would soon be opened.
“We intend to increase the number of commercially-operating diamond mines from two to six,” said Mr Thotanyana, before listing the mines as follows:
“Liqhobong Mine, where investment of M2.4 billion has just been completed. The mine is currently at the commissioning stage;
“Kolo, where the investor is currently assembling the plant and testing it. He is also currently attending to issues of compliance on the mine’s environmental impact.
“Mothae, where cabinet has made a decision to award the mining rights to Sputnik Investments;
“Lephane, where the ministry is in the process of inviting Expressions of Interest for a new investor; and Motete, where the Ministry is in discussions with the investor about the mining lease.”
Currently, Lesotho’s operational diamond mines are Letšeng Diamonds and Storm Mountain Diamonds also known as Kao mine.
Mr Thotanyana further stated the ministry was also planning to attract investment of at least M5 billion that would help create an additional 10 000 jobs.
He said new mining opportunities would soon be announced.
“I am happy to announce that soon the Ministry will announce 16 new places where investors can express interest to mine hard kimberlite.
We are also in the process of announcing many places for alluvial mining where the second phase of the Lesotho Water Highlands Project is to be implemented.”
He said the plan to increase the country’s production capacity from 340 000 carats to 1 500 000 carats per annum would consolidate Lesotho’s reputation as one of the top producers of diamonds in the world.
Mr Thotanyana said they had employed different strategies to explore for other minerals as part of the ministry’s efforts to diversify the type of minerals mined in the country.
These include the Lesotho Geo Chemical Mapping Project which will explore for 23 industrial minerals, Remote Sensing Project, Western Lesotho Mineral Project and diamond prospecting.
“We also have a plan to establish a Lesotho Diamond Centre in order to fulfill the dream of mineral beneficiation in Lesotho, recognise and reposition the artisanal and small mining sub-sector, address constraints to diamond exchange, increase government earning through domestic diamond valuation as well as tackle illicit diamond trade,” he said.
He said half of the 32 prospecting licences they had given out had expired and the holders had since asked for extensions.
He said another nine licences were terminated while two were surrendered. A further two licences were the subject of litigation.
Mr Thotanyana also warned the public to guard against confidence tricksters who extorted money by promising to get them hired in the mines.
“The public should be aware that jobs are not for sale in our mines,” he said, adding they should report suspicious people to the nearest police station.